Saturday, May 30, 2009

Travelog Day 7; the Raven, the Witch and the Canyon

It was a relatively short drive from Lordsburg to my next stop in Arizona.
I was going to visit my friend M, who curiously enough lived in Green Valley, AZ.

M is a bit strange, but a good hearted guy and a prepper through and through.
Ask M anything you want to know about the fancy black guns from Russia or Romania, and you will get more information than you could possibly use.

I arrived in Green Valley early in the day, but thanks to the delay from mechanical problems, I arrived at the beginning of M's weekend.

Everything happens for a reason.

M. suggested we head for the hills and go up to Madeira canyon. At 5,400 feet it was much cooler than the valley, so we set off on the short drive up a VERY steep hill.

It was the first time the van had taken a grade this steep. She went slower, and slower....and slower.....
The temperature gauge was climbing. I turned off the AC and it leveled off at an acceptable medium. I downshifted to first, and she crawled up the hill.

It was 20 degrees cooler at the top of the mountain. We parked in the shade and dipped into the cooler for some beer.
We went for a walk near a little creek and saw lots of neat lizards and birds. Unfortunately I forgot my camera.

The creek was little more than a seep. It was the driest spring most people could remember. The oak trees were struggling, dropping leaves when they should be putting out new growth.

When we came back to the parking area, a very large raven was sitting on the picnic table near the van. He flew off as we approached.

We sat at the table and talked about Louisiana and how things seemed to be falling apart there. We talked about our country and how things were falling apart. We talked about the potential crash of the dollar and hyperinflation.
We talked about why I left the ex, who was M's friend before I knew M.

I spoke passionately about what I was feeling when I left (covered here in earlier posts) and about how I believed that I needed to live the future I seek for humanity.
I told M I was going to find community, where I could live with like minded people independently of most of the institutions and systems of civilization.

M has a place to run if TSHTF. His family has a remote location where they have been storing preps. I was happy to hear he had a good chance if things got bad quickly.

I reveled in how good it felt to be surrounded by trees and mountains again. It was a beautiful place.

The camera failed to capture the majesty of the place. It was just too big and amazing to fit in a little digital box.

As the sun sank lower, we headed back to the valley.
I got to take a real shower, with real pressurized hot water.
Pressurized hot water is one of my favorite things about civilization.

Feeling refreshed, we sat on the patio and drank beer with M's mom.
M's mom is a Christian witch. Odd as that may sound, the basic teachings of Christ and the fundamental precepts of Wicca are pretty much the same.

Most religions teach compassion and love as core values. It's such a shame something so beautiful and right could be so perverted into control systems to serve greed and ego.

We had a lively and stimulating conversation. Mom and I had a lot in common.
She loved plants, and had surrounded her small patio with fountains and foliage.
Despite the closeness of the neighbors she had her own private little grotto.

I was very impressed with number of food plants she managed to cram into such a small space.
Blueberries, strawberries, citrus, tomatoes, squashes, peppers, herbs...
I saw another edible plant peeking out everywhere I looked.
It was lovely.

All the cacti were blooming when I was there. As is typical for me, I took lots of plant pictures.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


I'm still unable to comment on my own blog, but I enjoy comments and want to respond...

Publius, - a road trip is a great bonding experience for a family. A family car trip might be easier than a family boat trip. If you drive each other crazy, at least somebody can get out and walk away.
The ocean is a lot like a desert though in some ways. Maybe you could take a short road trip sometime soon...I hear the Little Rock, AR area is beautiful, and not too far from you.

Anon, - Thanks for the shower tips. Sponging under a poncho is a good idea. (I didn't have a poncho or a sponge tho..)
As far as squatting in a parking lot, I did purchase the Sani-Fem female urinary device, which came in very handy while I was playing mechanic. Standing between my doors, I peed like a man into a bottle, then watered the acasia tree.
I was close enough to civilization to find a potty for the serious business, but if I'm in the middle of nowhere I have no problem digging a hole and squatting.
Worst come to worst, I had the cat litter box in the van which could double as a sawdust toilet.

Hermit Jim, - Thanks for the praise! I'm glad you're enjoying my story. I'll think about the book - I'd love to write for a living.

Dragon, - I know dealers are a rip off. I don't know why I didn't trust myself to fix it in the first place. That experience resulted in a new rule... Nobody works on my Beast but ME.
No way would I buy a new (or newer than '93) Ford. My baby is old enough she was built in the US of A. It kills me to have to replace her solid old parts with cheaply made chinese or mexican parts and metals.
Part of the reason I bought this vehicle was the injectors were easy to get to and cost $50 apiece instead of $140 apiece. Good call on my part. Poor Rube Vigor is stranded in CA with an estimate for $3,000 to change injectors and pump.
What's got you tearing your hair out?

Thanks for the comments everybody. Just because I don't respond doesn't mean I don't care.
It just means I'm computer illiterate and don't have enough patience to learn.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Travelog Day 6; Shade Tree Mechanic

Bright and early, I headed to the auto parts store to get my new injectors.
Turns out NAPA is next door to the Ford dealership where Bilbo Baggins works.
I parked in the meager shade of a skimpy acasia tree in a vacant parking lot just outside the Ford dealer's back gate.

In truth, this was to be withing walking distance of NAPA in case I needed a tool or additional parts.

It was an added bonus to let the Ford mechanics watch as I installed MY OWN injectors.

After watching my hobbitlike mechanic take two hours to remove one fuel line, and nearly break my air cleaner housing in the process, there wasn't a chance in hell I'd trust them with my injectors. (Or pay $75/hr labor to someone working slower and sloppier than me)

By 9 AM, I got out my tools, opened my trusty Haynes manual, and got to work.

First I used duct tape to label all eight fuel lines with the cylinder number. Then I set about removing them.
I loosened the connections to the injectors, then had to remove the lines from the injector pump, which is an octopus lookin' thing mounted to the front of the engine block.

Now I understand why people say vans are hard to work on. Most of the time I was sitting on my center console with my legs spread to either side of the engine compartment. This position is really only comfortable for about an hour.

Why didn't I keep up with doing yoga????

In the same amount of time it took Bilbo to remove one fuel line, I had them all out.
The next step was to remove the fuel return lines, but that was easy, they just wiggle-pulled off.
Then the injectors were unscrewed out of the block, and the new ones installed. Seating new O rings on the new injectors was probably the trickiest part of this whole operation.

I got them in and torqued down, then reinstalled the fuel supply and return lines.

There was a moment of panic when I couldn't find all eight of the little rubber caps covering the tips of the new injectors. If I installed an injector without taking the cap off I was gonna be REALLY pissed.

But I found it in a crack under the seat.

I was going to change my fuel filter at this time, but my hands were shaking and I was getting angry at the filter wrench.
About this time I realized it was 5PM and I hadn't eaten anything all day. No wonder I was exhausted.

The van took forever to crank since I'd drained the fuel lines and it had vapor lock.

Rrrr, Rrrrr, Rrrrr.....
My starting batteries were dying.
Rrrrr, Rrrr, Rrrrr.....
I jumped them off my house batteries.
Rrrrr, Rrrrrr, Rrrrrr....COUGH!

"Come on baby, you can do it!"

Rrrrr...Cough, choke


I was at the end of my rope. Too exhausted to put the engine cover back on, I tossed it in the passenger seat and drove back to my shady parking spot.

Noting I had a couple fuel leaks, I collapsed into bed and slept through the night.

In the morning I felt like I'd been hit by a truck. I was sore EVERYWHERE.
I tightened the leaking fittings, replaced the engine cover and took the Beast for a spin around town.

The noise was gone.

I fixed it.

It kicked my ass, but I changed my own injectors in about 8 hours.

I fueled up and hit the road, glad to be on my way once again.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Stealth Shower

I slept soundly in the parking lot next to the post office. Maybe because I was clean for the first time in nearly a week.

I took a shower in the parking lot, and it was actually quite pleasant.

There was a conveniently abandoned concrete pad next to the vacant warehouse on the south side of the van that was hot as an oven by 1:00 PM, and earlier in the day I had filled my sun shower and set it in the desert sun to warm up.

So after it got dark I took a stealth shower.

It was quite exciting.

I opened the passenger doors on the van and stood between them for privacy. The side they opened out to faced the blank wall of the warehouse, and I was somewhat sheltered by the pines and sumac tree surrounding the van.

I was still, however, buck naked in an unfamiliar parking lot in a very small town in the desert.

I have a sun shower that pressurizes with a foot pump, so I washed my hair first while I was still partially clothed. I have a LOT of hair and it takes a while to wash. Then I stripped, soaped up and rinsed off, with just enough water to finish. The desert gets quite cool at night, so the thought of being discovered wasn't the only reason I was quick.

As I washed, the cats took advantage of the open doors to sneak out and go exploring.
I saw them get out, but I was naked, what could I do?

I dried off and got dressed, and when I called the cats they came back and jumped in the van.

At 9 PM, this particular block of this little town gets quite deserted. I'm surrounded by a bank, city hall/library/police station(all in one building), the post office, a vacant lot, and an abandoned warehouse. So it's fairly secure, yet quiet at night. I did worry about getting hassled by cops for parking here, but no one seems to care. I think the occasional drifter/van dweller rolling through is not an unusual phenomenon in the little town of Lordsburg.

Travelog Day 5; Lateral Drift

Well, the part came and was installed by Bilbo Baggins.
The engine sounded fine with the cover off, but naturally as soon as I paid the bill and drove away with the cover in place, the knocking noise was still there.


I drove around town for a little while, listening to the noise and looking for a shady place to park. While I listened, I was asking the van to tell me what was wrong with it. My initial panicky thoughts of severe engine damage had run their course, so I took some time to really listen and think.

Whenever I attack a mechanical issue, I try to start by fixing the easiest, most obvious things first. I went through a mental checklist of my fuel system, and decided to replace my injectors.
Replacing them was something I'd wanted to do before I left on my journey, but I ran out of money and time.
The van has nearly 150K miles on it, so it is about time for new injectors anyway.

Fortunately, you can't throw a rock in this town without hitting an auto parts store or service center. I think there must be some kind of mechanical vortex here that causes vehicles to break down.
There seems to be a plethora of churches too, so I guess you can pray you won't be ripped off too badly while you wait for your car to get fixed.

I went to NAPA and ordered new injectors for $56.00 each. (Ford wanted $75 each)
At this point in my journey I had about $200.00 left, and that was to buy diesel.
Fortunately the Bank of Mom came to my rescue and bought me new injectors.

The parts would arrive in the morning, so I drove to a shady place across from the post office and snuggled the van up underneath the light shade of some tall spindly pines.
This was actually a really nice spot. The pines were on my passenger side, and there was a little gravel road running behind a warehouse beyond the pines.
It was really as private and shaded as I could ask for in this little desert town.

I settled down to continue reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and was amazed at how much more I was getting out of this book the second time around.

For those who haven't read it, it isn't so much about motorcycles, or maintenance, although those are in there.

It's more about a Journey to find Truth.
It's about questioning very fundamental assumptions about how we do things and why.

It questions the nature and foundations of rational thought itself.

It came to me that this situation I found myself in was a sort of lateral drift of my own, and probably a necessary and valuable experience.

The best way to explain about lateral drift is in Robert Pirsig's own words;

"In a laboratory situation, when your whole procedure goes haywire, when everything is wrong or indeterminate or is so screwed up by by unexpected results you can't make head or tail of anything, you start looking laterally. That's a word he later used to describe a growth of knowledge that doesn't move forward like an arrow in flight, but expands sideways, like an arrow enlarging in flight; or like the archer, discovering that although he has hit the bull's-eye and won the prize, his head is on the pillow and sun is coming in the window.
Lateral knowledge is knowledge that's from a wholly unexpected direction, from a direction that's not even understood as a direction until the knowledge forces itself upon one.
Lateral truths point to the falseness of axioms and postulates underlying one's existing system of getting to the truth."

So with thoughts such as these, I drifted.
I enjoyed this quiet time beneath the pines to read and think.
I was thankful for my life and experiences so far on this journey.

When I talked to my friends, they seemed shocked to hear I was so positive about being stranded in this desert town.
Life is 10% of what you experience, and 90% of your attitude towards it.

So I will enjoy this day of rest and reflection. Tomorrow will be lots of work, changing out the injectors.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day

I have a tremendous amount of respect and gratitude for the men and women that have fought (and are fighting) for this country.
But let's not kid ourselves.
We aren't fighting for freedom anymore.
We are fighting for the remaining world resources (oil) to help support our military industrial complex and a few wealthy elites.

It hasn't been about freedom for a long time.

We all need to take a good hard look at who is actually responsible for eroding our freedoms and pursuit of happiness...

Hint; they aren't overseas.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Travelog day 4; What's That Noise?

I was making good time.
I still had a tail wind across most of New Mexico, and I thought I could make it to Arizona before stopping for the night.

Unfortunately, about 15 miles from the AZ border near Lordsburg, NM, the engine started to make a knocking noise. It was loud enough I could hear it over the radio, which is typically cranked way up so I can hear it over the wind and engine.

I slowed down, thinking I had thrown a rod or something equally horrible.

The noise slowed down along with the engine, meaning it was definitely IN the engine.


Fortunately, the noise started about 10 seconds after I passed a billboard for a Ford Service Center exit 1 mile.
How convenient.
I let the van slow down even more as I approached the exit. The knocking noise got louder with acceleration, but I didn't seem to be losing power.
I limped into the Ford Dealership, and was told that everyone had gone to lunch but someone would be take a look at it soon.

I opened an emergency beer and consulted my Diesel Repair manual's troubleshooting guide.
Hmmm.... bad fuel? Nah.
Injector pump? Gawd I hope not, and I didn't lose power so probably not.
Injectors? Quite possibly. She had been giving me some trouble starting warm.

As I removed the engine cover, a little hobbit of a man came over to take a look.
He peered around in the engine compartment with a flashlight and mirror.
The cats were terrified by this strange person invading their van. They hid in the bowels of the cargo hold.

The mechanic determined I had a cracked fuel line which was the cause of the noise.
I was doubtful, but hey, he was the Ford mechanic.

They had to order the part, it would be in tomorrow. The fuel line had been pulled out, so I couldn't drive anywhere. They offered to get me a motel.
"I don't have money for a motel. Can't I just sleep in your parking lot? Think of me as free security."
After consulting the Big Kahuna, I was OK'd to sleep in the parking lot of the dealership.
I passed the rest of the day drinking the remainder of my emergency beers and re-reading 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' which is a fabulous book that was eerily appropriate to my situation.

My little kitchen, with the stove set up.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Hey Publius,
I found my dad's old shortwave radio...circa 1950's.
I saw your comment on the archdruid report. E-mail me at, I'd like to chat with you about vacuum tubes....
I can't even comment on your blog I being blacklisted? or just paranoid?
(Damn this comment form issue)


Thanks for the comments, guys.
Glad to see you visiting.
I've tried to respond several times, but my own comment forum won't let me comment.
Bastard! I think it's some 'clearwater' program interfering with my 'post as' name.
Anyway, don't think I don't read comments or don't care, I just have to figure the damn thing out.

Travelog Day 3; The Dead Zone

During the night a very strong line of thunderstorms came through. The lightning flashed almost continuously, like a strobe light.
The Ranger came through the camp ground warning everyone that we were under a tornado watch.
I tried not to think about a tornado coming near the van. My recent dream about it was graphic enough.

The rain was loud on the van's metal roof. At one point it hailed.
I sat up for a while watching the weather, then finally fell asleep sometime after midnight when it calmed down a bit.

With the odometer at 146749, I left camp in a light rain, and forgot my stone knife on the picnic table. :( Oh well.
I drove through several lines of thunderstorms as I continued west. The rain was so heavy at times people pulled over onto the shoulder of the freeway to wait it out.
I plowed on at 35 mph.

I stopped to use a pay phone to check in with my 'safety net'. I hadn't had cell phone service since before camping at the river. I had to check in at least every other day. If two full days went by, somebody would start looking for me.

Eventually I passed through all the storms. They were headed east, while I was headed west. As the sun came out the land changed again.

Nothing much grows in west Texas. It is very dry. Scrubby tumbleweeds, the occasional chapparal or sagebrush; even the prickly pears didn't seem to like this area much.

This is when you start to realize exactly how big Texas is.
Nothing for miles.
Not a town.
Not a phone.
Not even an edible plant.
And no cell service.

This is why I brought 15 gallons of water with me.
If I broke down or got stranded out here, it could be bad.

I tried really hard not to think about that.
I just drove.

About 40 miles away from El Paso, I got cell service again.
The amount of relief I felt from knowing I could contact civilization shocked me a little.
Have I become that dependent on this technology?

Maybe I would just make different choices if the technology wasn't available.
Like choosing NOT to travel by myself through the most godforsaken stretch of desert I've seen since I'd visited Nevada.

The sun was low in the sky as I crossed into New Mexico.
I stopped at the rest area that serves as the New Mexico welcome center.

As rest areas go, this one was excellent.
It was set above and well back from the freeway, so noise was limited.
It had beautiful desert landscaping; blooming ocotillo cactus, false bird of paradise, several varieties of yucca, and a few plants or cactus I didn't know names for.

Ocotillo cactus

The area was surrounded by smallish mountains that loomed in the distance, and the setting sun lit them with shades of gold, orange and purple.

I put Bob cat on his harness and let him explore a bit. He drug me through some cactus before getting freaked out and hopping back into the safety of the van.

With the odometer at 147009 and relieved to be through Texas, I went to bed early, and the van and I got some much needed rest.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Travelog Day 2; Down by the River

It was an easy drive across east Texas. It was smooth sailing through Houston, with no traffic at 10AM. Out of Houston, I had a good tail wind and found several big rigs going just the right speed for me to surf their wake.
The speed limit was 70, but the van's cruising speed is between 60 and 65. No need to push my old beast harder than necessary.
The cats complained a bit in the morning, but soon settled into the rhythm of the road and fell asleep.

As I traveled west, the countryside changed into gentle rolling hills populated by prickly pear, yuccas and honey locust. Everything seemed to be blooming, and a light elusive fragrance filled the air. Many sections of the road had been cut straight through the little hills, leaving artificial cliffs with colorful layers of rock.

It was still early when I decided to take a rest at South Llano River State Park, near Junction, TX. My intention was to take a nap, then travel on, since I had not slept well the night before.
As I crossed the little river it was a beautiful shade of turquoise. All the rivers in south Louisiana are the same shade of mud brown.
I stopped at the ranger station to inquire about camping. At $17.00 it seemed a little steep, but the river and the countryside were so beautiful I decided to go for it and spend the night.

I found a nice shady campsite so as not to fry the cats. The sun was still high, I had stopped early; about 2:30pm.
I was quite tired, but I had to see the river. I walked through a field where wild turkeys roosted in the evening, past a pond, and through a grove of wild pecans before finding the river.

Startled turtles plopped into the water as I peered down at bass and sunfish cruising through the shallows.
It had been years since I'd seen a clear rocky stream. I scrambled down the bank to test the water with my toes. It was a very pleasant temperature, and I nibbled some watercress I found growing at the water's edge.

As I walked back through the pecan grove, I mulled the extremely difficult decision I was now faced with; should I
A. Take a nap
B. Go fishing
C. Go for a swim

Boy, life is rough.

I was tired, but I couldn't resist that river. Clear rocky streams are one of my favorite things. Since my tackle box was buried in the van I decided to go swimming.

The water was just cool enough to be refreshing. I had my goggles, so I snorkeled for a bit, watching the fish. When I dove under, I realized I could hear them. I thought only salt water fish made noise; I heard them a lot in Key West. But there was the same unmistakable popping noise in this river. It sounds like someone banging rocks together underwater. I swam to a deep area, following the noises, then dove to the bottom and startled several large bass who swam away quickly in alarm. The fish noises stopped briefly, then resumed farther upstream.

After a thrilling ride down the rapids on my belly, I sat on a driftwood log to rest and warm up in the sun. I had the place to myself. I couldn't see or hear any evidence of other humans.

It was GREAT.

I noticed a strange glassy type of rock on the riverbank, and broke it with other rocks to make a crude but very sharp stone knife. Hungry now, I wandered back to camp in a foraging mood.
Wild turkeys gobbled in the distance as I cut some prickly pear pads with my new stone knife. I found some new shoots of catbriar (smilax spp.) and snipped them off too.

I sauteed both veggies in olive oil with a little salt and pepper. The smilax shoots tasted like asparagus, but a bit milder. The prickly pear was good too, but turned slimy as it got cold.
To get some starch and protein, I made red beans and rice with spam.
Deer wandered through my campsite as I ate, competing with the jack rabbits for tender new grass.

Life was good.

A pretty wildflower

There's a carp in this picture, can you see him?

The view from camp

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Travelog Part 1; Texas

After a flurry of last minute packing, I finally threw the cats in the van and left around noon on a saturday in April.

Worries lay heavy on my mind.
What if I got stranded in the desert?
What if I got trouble from the fuzz?
What if the van got broken into?

I said a quick prayer, asking for protection from delays, breakdowns and unwanted intrusions. I took a deep breath, and rolled out.

The odometer read 145866, and I didn't expect to make many miles since I left so late.
I drove past the cypress swamps, over the long bridges, past the floating camps and the petrochemical plants.

I said my last goodbyes to the savage garden of Louisiana.

There are many wonderful things about that area, but there is always a feeling of something hidden and sinister; some poisonous desperation that comes perhaps from living in such an impossible place.

Goodbye, city below sea level.

30 miles east of Houston, I stopped for the night at a truck stop.
There was a small area on the fringes of truck parking that was just the right size for my van. I made sure I wasn't blocking anyone or taking up too much space. I have a lot of respect for truckers, and it is a general policy of mine not to piss them off.
Unfortunately, my spot was near the entrance, and happened to be downwind from both the fueling station and the truck parking.
It was an uneventful night, though not exactly restful. All night long the trucks rolled in past the van, and in the morning I was shocked I hadn't been poisoned in the night by diesel fumes.

With the odometer at 146197, I got an early start and headed deeper into the Great Republic of Texas.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I'm back!

Hello to all out there in the blogosphere. I bet y'all thought I'd disappeared for good.
The trip took longer than anticipated, and I had many grand adventures. I made it safely to washington state, and once I have an opportunity to load my pictures onto this computer, I will be making a series of posts chronicling my adventure.

I've been busy moving my few belongings into my new room, helping Mom get her garden planted, and getting the kitties adjusted to their new home and to two kitties who already live here.

A few things I learned on my trip;
Sleep upwind of truck parking areas if possible, and never trust mechanics at dealerships.

More later....